The still unfolding, or rather unraveling, case of the thwarted underwear bomber plot, is beginning to smell. I make no claims of being an expert on intelligence gathering and I certainly have no inside information on this specific case. However the central question that begs to be asked is why this operation became public knowledge. The AP is being blamed for releasing the story but how did the AP find out about it to begin with?
The N.Y. Times has a piece that aside from the rather obvious attempt to score points for the Obama Administration, contains more questions than answers. For instance:
In an extraordinary intelligence coup, the double agent left Yemen last month, traveling by way of the United Arab Emirates, and delivered both the innovative bomb designed for his aviation attack and inside information on the group’s leaders, locations, methods and plans to the Central Intelligence Agency, Saudi intelligence and allied foreign intelligence agencies.
Officials said the agent, whose identity they would not disclose, works for the Saudi intelligence service, which has cooperated closely with the C.I.A. for several years against the terrorist group in Yemen. He operated in Yemen with the full knowledge of the C.I.A. but not under its direct supervision, the officials said.
Well I am certainly relieved that they didn’t IDENTIFY the poor bastard. I mean after all Al Qaeda probably has NO IDEA who he is. (/sarcasm)
The story goes on to breathlessly inform the reader that:
…the intelligence agent provided critical information that permitted the C.I.A. to direct the drone strike on Sunday that killed Fahd Mohammed Ahmed al-Quso.
Why are these mission details being blurted out publicly? NONE of this information should ever be made public.
The agent is now safe in Saudi Arabia, officials said. The bombing plot was kept secret for weeks by the C.I.A. and other agencies because they feared retaliation against the agent and his family — not, as some commentators have suggested, because the Obama administration wanted to schedule an announcement of the foiled plot, American officials said.
Officials said Tuesday night that the risk to the agent and his relatives had now been “mitigated,” evidently by moving both him and his family to safe locations.
Mitigate is a word beloved by governmental bureaucrats and one that I heard regularly during my years in local office. It gets used in sentences like this ” If you will appropriate $1,000,000 it will help mitigate our leaky roof problem”. You see “mitigate” doesn’t mean “fix” or “end” or “dispose of” or “take care of”. No, “mitigate” means “lessen” or “moderate”. It is a wiggle room word that allows government bureaucrats to proactively cover their behinds. Two years later when the roof is still leaking they can say “Yes, but its not leaking as badly as it used to” !
So when we are told the danger to the spy and his family has been “mitigated” it means, if it means anything, that he’s been hid better than he was a few days ago. He’s now in a “safe” location. In Saudi Arabia.
The Times does admit that all is not rosy:
…American intelligence officials were angry about the disclosure of the Qaeda plot, first reported Monday by The Associated Press
Notice that they are casting the AP as the heavy, its all the nasty old AP’s fault. But how did the AP find out? And who is providing all the the details that continue to dribble out?
Watch any law enforcement movie or TV show and you can see that even Hollywood knows that an undercover agent must be protected. Agents aren’t disposable. You don’t use them once and then expose them.
Its great that this plot was stopped but its inexcusable that we know as much about this event as we do.
1. The CIA and the Saudi’s had a spy inside Al Qaeda
2. The CIA and the Saudi’s had a spy inside Al Qaeda in Yeman.
3. The CIA and the Saudi’s had a spy inside Al Qaeda in Yeman who had access to info that lead to the drone strike.
4. The CIA and the Saudi’s had a spy inside Al Qaeda who has turned over a new type of bomb which we now use to build new detection technology.
5. The CIA and the Saudi’s had a spy in Yeman who has provided “inside information on the group’s leaders, locations, methods and plans”.
Essentially, unless this is an incredibly subtle misdirection play, the U.S. has spilled its guts and “mitigated” the potential damage done to Al Qaeda.
Heckuva job Barry.